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AT2019pim: A Luminous Orphan Afterglow from a Moderately Relativistic Outflow

Daniel A. PerleyAnna Y. Q. HoMichael Fausnaugh ...+33 Yuhan Yao
Jan 2024
Classical gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) have two distinct emission episodes: prompt emission from ultra-relativistic ejecta and afterglow from shocked circumstellar material. While both components are extremely luminous in known GRBs, a variety of scenarios predict the existence of luminous afterglow emission with little or no associated high-energy prompt emission. We present AT 2019pim, the first secure example of this phenomenon to be identified. Serendipitously discovered during follow-up observations of a gravitational-wave trigger and located in a contemporaneous TESS sector, it is hallmarked by a fast-rising (t ~ 2 hr), luminous (M_UV,peak ~ -24.4 mag) optical transient with accompanying luminous X-ray and radio emission. No gamma-ray emission consistent with the time and location of the transient was detected by Fermi-GBM or by Konus, placing strong limits on an accompanying GRB. We investigate several independent observational aspects of the afterglow in the context of constraints on relativistic motion and find all of them are consistent with an initial Lorentz factor of Gamma_0 ~ 30-50, significantly lower than in any well-observed GRB and consistent with the theoretically-predicted "dirty fireball" scenario in which the high-energy prompt emission is stifled by pair production. However, we cannot rule out a structured jet model in which only the line-of-sight material was ejected at low-Gamma, off-axis from a classical high-Gamma jet core. This event represents a milestone in orphan afterglow searches, demonstrating that luminous afterglows with weak or no detectable gamma-ray radiation exist in nature and can be discovered by high-cadence optical surveys.
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